Compare Main Salmon w/Lower Salmon - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 12-25-2012   #1
 
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Compare Main Salmon w/Lower Salmon

Anyone able to give beta on how the Main Salmon compares to the Lower Salmon for a family friendly trip (ie, kids in duckies) at low to medium flows around end of July/first part of August?

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Old 12-26-2012   #2
Shapp
 
the grove, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freeagua View Post
Anyone able to give beta on how the Main Salmon compares to the Lower Salmon for a family friendly trip (ie, kids in duckies) at low to medium flows around end of July/first part of August?
fairly similar, but the Main obviously has a limited entry lottery, hot springs, blackbutte porter milkshakes, and way way way way way longer shuttle. Difficulty is similar, though I haven't had the opportunity yet to row the new rapid that backwatered salmon falls
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Old 12-27-2012   #3
 
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I think the Lower is easier than the main, and has more frequent riffles for ducky-fun.
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Old 12-27-2012   #4
 
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Have to disagree a little bit....

Lower salmon is definitely significantly easier than the main at august flows.

Lower salmon has two significant rapids, IV Snow Hole and III China Bar. The Lower in August is a blast furnance of hot sand beaches, stellar swimming, and little shade. Much of the trip is a moving flatwater experience closer to the John Day or Grande Ronde than to the Main or Middle Fork Salmon.

The Main Salmon is packed with III whitewater, with several harder drops, and rapids are much more densely plentiful than the lower. It has some lovely forested camps in the first half of the trip, and very little flatwater to fight. I'd argue better hiking too.

A good tool for getting a sense of these rivers is Will Hansen's great site whitewatercampsites.com.

Both are good trips. For kids in iks, the lower will be much more appropriate. but August to me is a better time to be on the main, if the fires are not too bad. then again I can't handle the heat or sun of the lower in august, it's just too much sun for me.
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Old 12-27-2012   #5
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the grove, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slickhorn View Post
Lower salmon is definitely significantly easier than the main at august flows.

Lower salmon has two significant rapids, IV Snow Hole and III China Bar. The Lower in August is a blast furnance of hot sand beaches, stellar swimming, and little shade. Much of the trip is a moving flatwater experience closer to the John Day or Grande Ronde than to the Main or Middle Fork Salmon.

The Main Salmon is packed with III whitewater, with several harder drops, and rapids are much more densely plentiful than the lower. It has some lovely forested camps in the first half of the trip, and very little flatwater to fight. I'd argue better hiking too.

A good tool for getting a sense of these rivers is Will Hansen's great site whitewatercampsites.com.

Both are good trips. For kids in iks, the lower will be much more appropriate. but August to me is a better time to be on the main, if the fires are not too bad. then again I can't handle the heat or sun of the lower in august, it's just too much sun for me.
got to disagree with mr slick a tad on this one, neither section resembles the Grande Ronde or John Day to a significant degree in my mind, and I think the overall single hardest move difficulty may be only a slight edge to the Main at low flow. Neither is packed with III or IV water, and the Lower has way way more Class II, and most of that is packed into 54 miles on the Lower Salmon, with few rapids on the 20 mile section of the Snake.

While the lower salmon might have more flat water (cause of lake snake at the end) I believe the lower salmon has overall many more fun splashy rapids than the main, I do agree on the weather, though I prefer the desert and like the lower salmon better than the main, mostly cause I can go when ever I want and don't have to worry about a limited entry permit, a very costly shuttle, and a 2 day drive in instead of 1 day to the put in (for just about anyone living in western OR or WA). The splashies by the numbers based on my maps and notes from running the lower several times in August and hte Main only 1 time in August. Note that I haven't run the new rapid that backwatered Salmon Falls. I gave it class IV to be conservative in over estimating the difficulty.

I am a numbers guy so a llittle mathematical description is in order,

Lower Salmon Rapid Count by Class based on "my" notes at low August flow, other's experience may differ:

about 74 miles (White Bird to Heller Bar)
Class II (47)
Class III-/+ (8.)
Class IV- (1)

The Main Salmon Rapid Count by Class based on "my" notes at low August flow, other's experience may differ:

about 81 miles (Corn Creek to Carey Creek)
Class II (22)
Class III-/+ (10)
Class IV- (2)

I can't comment on kids in IKs, but we had adults in IKs (first time paddlers) on the main, and there were some swims (about a 50% success rate on class III and higher).

Note to slickhorn, Eric's first time paddling an IK was the Main
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Old 12-27-2012   #6
 
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Interesting. I've run them both a number of times, and I consider the lower main to be a desert flatwater trip with huge beaches and great swimming. I consider the main to be a whitewater river with more traditional camps and river character/culture. Seen lots of flips and wraps and even a death on the main, never seen much of any of that on the lower cause except snow hole, it's pretty tough to find trouble.

I can't dispute your numbers Jason, but I can say from experience that at august flows, rapids like elkhorn and ludwig are way more difficult than anything on the lower main. by a class or more.

I dunno where you draw the line for II vs III but at july flows, there are whole five mile sections of the main that are quality III whitewater, something that simply doesn't happen on the lower main at any flow I've seen. A garren style drift log would illustrate this well I suspect.

There's usually a reason a run is permitted, so that should say something about how people view the desirability of a main trip over a lower main trip.

but to each their own. both are great trips in their own ways.
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Old 12-27-2012   #7
Shapp
 
the grove, Oregon
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I suspect the difference in our opinions is due to flow, I am talking low base flow, not medium low flow, like in the 4500 cfs at Whitebird range.

USGS Surface Water data for USA: USGS Surface-Water Daily Statistics

I bet there is quite a bit of differnece between some of the class IIIs at say 7500 cfs (typical flow in late July) compared to 4200 cfs in late August (white bird gage). The only time I have done the main, it was very low and I thought only Big Mallard had a class IV- technical nature. I thought everything else was pretty much read and run, though I was glad to have scouted Vinegar, not sure if I would have seen the right hand line as the best if I was going read and run at that low flow. I don't remember anything of any long extent on the main, except I believe elkhorn, which wasn't any trouble at all at those low flows. I would agree that a wrap or pin hazard is greater on the main, especially at low flow, cause there are way more rapids with larger protruding boulders. Bottom line, I would rather be on either one than sitting behind a computer posting on the Buzz

p.s. My favorite multiy day runs don't even have a lottery, so I must be half a brain short? A signficant factor in those being my favorites is that they don't have a lottery

To me, Class II to II+ has a wide range, Class III has a fairly wide range, and Class IV is pretty hard, and class V is scary the pants off me. Example, I don't think there are any class IV on the Deschutes downstream of Warm Springs, I don't think the lower Owyhee really has any legit class IV at really any flow, I thought Cabin rapid at 2x flood stage was class IV, I thought cable was class IV plus. I don't think there is really any class IV on the N. Umpqua. Ultimately max difficulty is subjective and flow dependant at the time, and of course things change, so what happened in the past doesn't mean the same for a future trip (AKA the new falls on the Jarbidge, the new rapid on the Main, or when washout formed on the Deschutes, etc. etc.)
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Old 12-27-2012   #8
 
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can anyone comment on the play on the lower salmon? I found the main salmon to be better than expected for both downriver and surfing. Same thing down low?
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Old 12-27-2012   #9
 
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The new "blackrock" rapid is no harder than any of the other rapids at low water. I would call it Class III, but I don't think any of the rapids on the Main are more than Class III in August.

I haven't run the lower, but I would recommend low water main trips to experienced children. It is a great river trip, and pretty mellow in August. I would only let kids who are competent swimmers ducky, as there could easily be a ducky swim or two in the bigger rapids. However, the Salmon is a very forgiving place to swim, and I wouldn't be too worried about older kids swimming. It would also be very easy to get the kids on the rafts for the bigger rapids, and let them ducky the flatter sections.
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Old 01-03-2013   #10
 
boulder, Colorado
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"blackrock"

hey brian,
i'm familiar wth Black rock rapid on th Salt. maybe ur referring to th new Black creek rapid (sometimes called Black canyon creek) tht submerged salmon falls. i ran it last spring just before th permitted season (just under 15k). our group ran both right and left. i ran left and it was a very steep III+. i caught th eddy immediately on th left and was able to watch our 18' cat run right..it seemed pretty straight forward also. both currents merge to th center wth some fun tail waves. no rocks to deal wth at tht level. i was rowing my 12'x12" QuadPod.
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